The weekly TRC industry digest - a round-up of international racing news from the past week.
Mike Smith unhappy with Saudi Cup penalties
North America: World #6 jockey Mike Smith described as ‘brutal’ the fine and eight-day suspension he received for excessive use of the whip when finishing second on Midnight Bisou in the inaugural Saudi Cup. Smith used the whip 14 times with the permitted level at ten.
‘Big Money Mike’ was fined over $200,000 - 60 percent of his share of the prize money in the world’s richest race. He was also banned for a further day for ‘using the whip with no regard to the horse’s stride’. He had already incurred a two-day ban for not weighing in after an earlier race.
“By no means do I feel that the way I rode her was excessive,” said Smith. “I might have passed the number a little bit, but that was it. I never put her or anyone else in harm.
“To receive that many days of a suspension is brutal enough and then to take 60 percent from what I flew across the world to earn, close to a quarter of a million dollars, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.”
Ambitious plans for Ireland
Europe: Horse Racing Ireland unveiled its five-year strategic plan at the Curragh on Tuesday, which included plans to have a second all-weather track in use by 2022. CEO Brian Kavanagh says it is “going to be different to any track you have seen before”.
There will be 416 fixtures in Ireland in 2024, up from 377 in 2021, with prize money expected to reach €90 million over the next five years. The minimum race value will also increase from €10,000 to €12,500, and the aspiration is that the number of horses in training will grow from almost 8,561 to more than 10,000.
A contribution of up to €30m has been pledged towards a new capital development scheme of at least €70m to support racecourses in Ireland. The creation of a second all-weather track at Tipperary, at an estimated cost of €10m, will be within this fund.
Kavanagh said, “It is important the trend of attendance growth continues, and we are confident of reaching our targets by broadening interest and appeal in Irish horse racing with a number of initiatives, including continued roll-out of the racecourse Wifi scheme, a loyalty programme and an enhanced advance tickets sales strategy, which will be in place by next year with the target of 1.5 million racegoers in 2024.”
Major prize money boost for Breeders’ Cup
North America: A $4 million increase in purses has been approved for the Breeders’ Cup, bringing total purses and awards for the two-day World Championships up to $35 million. Purse pay-outs will also be modified to pay down to the tenth place from the current eighth.
The Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf becomes the joint richest G1 turf race in the world, alongside the Dubai Turf and Dubai Sheema Classic at $6m (although still behind the as yet ungraded sprint The Everest In Australia). The Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile becomes the richest dirt mile race worldwide, while the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic remains the richest race in North America and the third richest G1 in the world (behind the Saudi Cup and the Dubai World Cup).
“These purse increases reflect the Breeders’ Cup’s mission to conduct the World Championships at the highest levels of quality and to keep our races competitive on the international stage,” Drew Fleming, Breeders’ Cup President and CEO, said after the board met during a regularly scheduled meeting to discuss future business plans.
A statement said that, beginning with 2020’s iteration, the board ‘will adopt all six recommendations from Dr Larry Bramlage’s report’, which are ‘aimed at refining safety and veterinary evaluation protocols for future events’.
Ritvo’s Stronach Group exit
North America: The Stronach Group (TSG) has confirmed the departure of Tim Ritvo, who oversaw Santa Anita during its horse death crisis last year.
His exit was not wholly unexpected as TSG appointed the former head of the Breeders’ Cup, Craig Fravel, over Ritvo, as its chief executive of racing, a position that did not exist. Ritvo was the COO.
Following the shocking number of breakdowns at the West Coast track, Ritvo was sent to the background as Aidan Butler, the chief strategy officer, was brought in to be the public face of Santa Anita.
“I want to thank Tim for his 24/7, day-in and day-out commitment to our company and our sport and for the invaluable contributions he has made to the repositioning and profitability of our business,” said Belinda Stronach, who added that TSG had no current plans to fill the position.
Elsewhere in racing ...
Europe: Irish racing is mourning the passing of trainer Joe Crowley, who died at the age of 91. He was the father of former Irish champion jumps trainer Annemarie O’Brien, wife of Aidan, and grandfather to Classic-winning jockeys Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien. More here
Oceania: The inaugural Showcase session at Oaklands in Melbourne brought an end to a highly successful Inglis Premier Yearling Sale. More here
North America: Richard C Gamez, 66, a long-time jockey who raced at Rillito Race Track in Arizona, has been pronounced dead after being trampled by horses during a race in the state. More here